Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 14, 2003
Agencies blanket us globally
SARS illustrates the interconnection of Earth's people
By SUZANNE ELSTON
In recent years, activists within the environmental and social justice movements have expressed growing concern about the impact of globalization. Many fear that international trade deals will only increase the expansive sweep of multi-national corporations while limiting the autonomy of nation states and their right to protect the basic necessities of life - food, water, a clean environment, health care and education.
This increase in trade, transport and travel has also created many new opportunities - both deliberate and accidental - for organisms to move freely across international boundaries. In recent weeks, this biological globalization has threatened public health in Canada and several other nations around the world. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is both frighteningly lethal and highly contagious. The virulent nature of this deadly form of pneumonia makes a mockery of the safety precautions that were put in place following the 9-11 attacks. There is little defence against an unseen enemy. The spread of SARS is also a chilling reminder of how truly connected we all are on this tiny planet.
In response to the SARS crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO) has moved into high gear, monitoring the spread of the disease from China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam to Canada. While most Canadian cases have been contained in the Greater Toronto area, news that the disease has spread to other provinces has many Canadians wondering where it will strike next.
Ironically, the SARS crisis comes as the WHO prepares to celebrate World Health Day, an annual event held on April 7. This year's theme, Shape the Future of Life: Healthy Environments for Children, serves to remind us that millions of children die annually from environmentally related illnesses. These deaths are not caused by some obscure virus like SARS, but rather from a lack of the most basic necessities of life - clean water, adequate food, basic health care and immunization.
UNICEF's Convention on the Rights of the Child. Adopted by the UN General Assembly on Nov. 20, 1989, this convention is the most universally accepted human rights instrument in history. Every country in the world - with the exception of the United States and Somalia - has ratified it. The convention spells out a child's right to survival, to develop to the fullest, to be protected from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation, and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. Every right spelled out in the convention is intrinsic to the human dignity and harmonious development of every child. The convention protects children's rights by setting standards in health care, education and legal, civil and social services.
The Millennium Development Goals comprise an ambitious agenda set by the United Nations Development Program for reducing poverty and improving lives. These goals include reducing child mortality rates by two thirds among children under the age of five, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases and to promote gender equality.
Codex Alimentarius Commission was created in 1963 by the Food and Agricultural Organization (a division of the United Nations) and the World Health Organization. Its purpose is to protect the health of the consumers and ensure fair trade practices in the food trade by developing and coordinating all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organizations. It is this global nature of the program that makes it critical for advocates to be diligent monitoring new codes as they are introduced.
In response to NAFTA and the policies of the WTO and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Forum on Globalization was formed. This alliance of 60 leading activists, scholars, economists and writers focuses on the impact of globalization on human welfare and equitable, democratic, and ecologically sustainable economics.
The organizations outlined here are just the tip of the iceberg. In this age of globalization, they are tools for our survival. Find out more, get involved.
Recommended websites:To find out more about World Health Day or for the latest updates on the SARS crisis, visit the World Health Organization www.who.int/en/
For more information about UNICEF's Convention on the Rights of the Child, visit www.unicef.org
The Millennium Development Goals can be found on the UNDP website at www.undp.org/mdg For information on the Codex Alimentarius Commission, go to www.codexalimentarius.net The International Forum on Globalization can be found at www.ifg.org
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